In Egypt I interviewed two men who seem the most likely frontrunners for the presidency of Egypt - Mohamed ElBaradei who I posted on earlier and Amr Moussa. Moussa is a towering figure in modern Egypt having served as Hosni Mubarak's foreign minister for 10 years and now as Secretary-General of the Arab League. Here's the transcript of my interview:
Fareed Zakaria: Let me ask you about yourself. As you know, you are very popular in Egypt, but you are also in some quarters a controversial figure. There are people who say you are too associated with the former regime to really represent the future - that you, after all, worked for Mubarak, that you were appointed to the Arab League, proposed by Mubarak, and that you have very comfortable relations with him until the end.
Amr Moussa: Well, yes, of course, I was the foreign minister of Egypt for 10 years, and the president was Hosni Mubarak. But the fact also remains that there were differences of views. You know that. We discussed that before several times.
And therefore I was moved from the cabinet because of the differences of views on certain issues of policy. I believe that ministers or officials in general should be judged by their records, by their achievements, by their performance, because I was not born on the 24th of January. I was ambassador of Egypt and I was minister in the cabinet, and I was a diplomat. I was a citizen, after all.
But people say that you went to Tahrir Square and told the students there, the demonstrators there, go back, Mubarak is not going to resign.
No. This is 50 percent of the truth; 50 percent is that I really went to the Tahrir Square twice. But Tahrir Square with a million people - you cannot tell anybody anything. These were huge demonstrations and people are shouting and people are singing. Some campaigns say Amr Moussa was saying this. But nobody was able to say anything with a million demonstrators talking and singing and shouting.
And so, I was not alone. And all of them said this is nonsense. This is some campaign saying something, and I don't think the people, electorate, believe that. They know my positions on serious issues.
What is the state of Egypt's revolution?
As you know, they called the revolution, and the revolution season in the Arab world as the Arab Spring. Our spring is full of sandstorms. And therefore, we should expect difficulties, we should expect bumps. But we continue to move.
I don't think the current problems would derail the revolution or derail our quest for and movement towards democracy.
Put on your hat as Secretary-General of the Arab League. I suppose I don't have to say put on your hat, because that is the job you hold right, still, until the end of this month. People have criticized you for having initially supported the Libyan operation - the requested military intervention - and then after the first couple of days, when it began, you seemed to back off.
And people in the West said, "Ah, there goes Amr Moussa flip-flopping."
Not exactly. Not exactly. I will tell you. We were really angered by the fact that civilian population was bombarded by planes, attacked by rockets. We couldn't take it. Therefore, the Arab League took the first decision ever in punishing a member state –applying sanctions, preventing that state from participating in the meetings of the Arab League on all levels and on all organizations.
Do you think it's possible that Gadhafi will agree to go peacefully?
Well, there are a lot of opinions on that. That he is not that type of man. He will continue to make war until the last soldier, the last dollar, etc. And others will say, "No, there is a degree or a point where everybody gets exhausted and he wants it to come to an end."
So between these two, negotiations, if a cease-fire is imposed and if both parties, Libyan parties, agree to sit and negotiate, and if Tripoli accepts negotiations for a certain period of time, and that a transitional period has to be established, that Libya will not go back to the status quo ante.
So you cannot accept a Libya that continues to have Gadhafi as its leader?
I don't think that it is possible, whether we accept it or not. I don't think this is acceptable. After all this bloodshed and all this confrontation, I don't think Libya can get back to the status quo ante as if nothing happened. That's the logic of things.
Can Syria go back to the status quo ante and the Assad family continue?
You know, I believe that Bashar al-Assad has a chance; if he accelerated the pace, towards reform, and meet what the demonstrators want to have, like freedom, like new elections, like that. Things are doable.
But right now he's killing them, far from meeting their aspirations.
Yes. Right now creating that situation, risks of, again, that you can't move back. Or you can't move forward. That is why the problem is that actually do the reform quickly, quickly. You are racing against time. It is possible. But for a very short window of opportunity.
You said that there will be change in every Arab society?
Oh yes, in every Arab society you will not find the same Egypt that you used to know or the same any country.
Let me ask you about a subject you spent many, many years, if not decades on: the Arab-Israeli issue. We could do this for a half hour, but let me ask you something very simple. The Israeli position currently is that they cannot negotiate with a combined Palestinian delegation, because one part of that delegation, Hamas, is dedicated to their destruction, refuses to recognize them. Is that a legitimate argument?
No. Because they stated before that they cannot negotiate with Abbas because he represents only part of the Palestinians. Now after the conciliation, they cannot negotiate with them because part of them is, as they say, a terrorist organization.
If they create a third position, you will find the same answer, no, we cannot negotiate with them until they do this or that. No. This is not serious.
I believe that the Israeli government, Prime Minister Netanyahu, will have to take into consideration that the Arab world is changing - the order, as they used to coexist with for the last several decades or several years, will be no longer there. They have to seize this opportunity.
If you became president of Egypt, would you press for an adoption of the Arab League position which is, broadly speaking, I will characterize as that the Arabs will recognize Israel and end the state of war if there is a Palestinian state roughly on the '67 borders with adjustments as the Palestinians would agree with?
My position today and tomorrow, and as president, if I am elected president, will be based on the Arab Initiative of which Egypt is party. The Arab Initiative puts the whole thing in a very clear equation, that we are ready to implement our part of the deal. We invite you to implement your part of the deal.
And if this happens, then not only normalization, but for recognition, and not only by the five or six countries around Israel, but by all the Arab countries. This is an offer that the Israelis never took seriously or even considered. Now is the time for them to consider.
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